Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating millions of dollars paid between two organizers of the Trump Tower meeting that involved Donald Trump Jr., top Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
BuzzFeed News reports that Mueller’s team is examining $3.3 million in payments between Aras Agalarov — a real estate developer and Russian billionaire with close ties to both President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin — and Agalarov’s longtime employee, Irakly “Ike” Kaveladze.
Kaveladze, who was also involved in planning the June 2016 meeting that Trump associates say resulted in no cooperation between Moscow and the Trump campaign, has been investigated in the past for money laundering, according to BuzzFeed News.
Officials at three separate banks raised concerns about the legality of the transactions, according to BuzzFeed, though the documents obtained by the news site do not show that the money was linked to the Trump Tower meeting.
Four federal law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed that Mueller’s office is investigating the transactions, though the special counsel’s office declined to comment to BuzzFeed.
Scott Balber, an attorney for the two Russian men named in the documents, dismissed insinuations that the money was used for purposes related to the meeting.
“This looks like complete nonsense,” Balber said. “It’s obvious the events of June 2016 have been a focal point of the special counsel’s investigation, various congressional inquiries, tremendous media attention and the like. We are in the lens of that reality, so it doesn’t surprise me that there’s been some flyspecking, some gross over reporting by a number of financial institutions.”
Manafort, who at the time was Trump’s campaign chairman, struck a plea deal with Mueller’s team earlier this month, allowing him to avoid a second criminal trial on the heels of one in August where a jury convicted him on eight counts of bank and tax fraud.
The deal signed by Manafort includes a “cooperation agreement” with the special counsel’s office, according to court filings. Manafort and other current and former Trump officials have long denied any collusion with Russia during the 2016 election.
BY JOHN BOWDEN – 09/21/18